Bryce Cotton has scored 27 points as the Perth Wildcats unleashed a blistering late run to secure a 88-76 NBL win over the South East Melbourne Phoenix at RAC Arena.
The Phoenix led by two points with five minutes remaining in Sunday’s match but a 20-3 run by the Wildcats blew the game apart.
Cotton was the standout with 27 points, seven assists and five steals, while Todd Blanchfield chipped in with 16 points.
American import John Mooney enjoyed a strong debut, tallying 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Star Phoenix guard Keifer Sykes (10 points, four assists, two steals) was well beaten in his head-to-head battle with Cotton, ending the match in foul trouble.
Mitch Creek top scored for South East Melbourne with 17 points, while Cameron Gliddon scored 15.
The Wildcats were expected to be rusty early after ending their 14-day quarantine at midnight, but strong efforts by Cotton and Mooney saw them skip out to a 17-9 lead midway through the opening term.
Mooney tallied seven rebounds – including five offensive rebounds – in the first quarter, while Cotton scored seven points.
The margin was six points in favour of the Wildcats at quarter time, but two long bombs from Adam Gibson to start the second term saw the Phoenix rocket into the lead.
Gibson went to halftime with 11 points to his name on 3-of-3 shooting from long range, helping his side open up a 42-38 lead.
Mooney endeared himself to the home fans with a spectacular slam dunk after snaring his own rebound from a failed three-pointer.
Perth made just 2-of-12 three-point attempts in the first half, but their 11 offensive rebounds limited the damage.
The lead changed hands numerous times in a see-sawing second half.
But when the game was there to be won in the dying minutes, the Wildcats unleashed their brutal best.
Cotton’s mesmerising dribbles and spectacular lay-ups proved too tough to stop, while three-pointers from Blanchfield and Jesse Wagstaff helped break the contest open.